METAIRIE, La. (AP) Pelicans guard Eric Gordon, who has missed 16 games with a fractured right ring finger, will return to the lineup against Minnesota on Saturday night, New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said.
''He was playing pretty good basketball when he got hurt, so hopefully we can get him back'' to that level, Gentry said after Friday's practice. ''It will just be good to have him out there.''
Gordon, who has average 14.9 points per game this season, injured his finger against the Timberwolves on Jan. 19. Gordon said he'll play with a small, stabilizing brace on his finger initially.
''That's something different I haven't done, so I've just got to keep on getting adjusted to that,'' Gordon said. ''I'm shooting fine. I'm doing things as normal.''
Gentry said Gordon's return should further help create the type of floor spacing on which his up-tempo offense thrives. Gordon is among the Pelicans' top perimeter shooters, having made 101 3-pointers this season.
The type of injury Gordon had allowed him to maintain his conditioning and he'll be inserted back into the starting lineup immediately, Gentry said.
Gordon said he is eager to return to a team that has won five of seven games and still has hope of making the playoffs. After beating Oklahoma City on Wednesday night, the Pelicans (23-34) were 5 1/2 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 25 games remaining.
''It's a tough road, but definitely not impossible,'' Gordon asserted. ''If we go on a major run right here, which we're very capable of, I think we can be right there. We're going to keep on fighting to the end. Anything can happen to those teams'' hovering around the eighth seed in the West.
Gordon, 27, is also winding down the final season of his current contract. But he said he does not necessarily see this final stretch as his last, best chance to audition for free agency.
''A lot of teams know what I can do. I'm not really worried about that,'' said Gordon, and eighth-year pro who has averaged 16.6 points per game for his career. ''It's all about what we do here as far as winning a bunch of games.''